IN the Lord Byron room of Brown’s Hotel on Albemarle Street, a slow-grown just-roasted chicken rests on a bespoke stand and our mission is to carve it – properly.
Mark Hix, ex-chef-director of Caprice Holdings, is hosting a masterclass to revive “the lost art of carving”, and he is teaching over a long roast lunch – the best way to learn, naturally. Before we attack three roasts with the carving knife, our appetites have already been whetted with crackling, chicken wings and breaded lamb scrimpets, all served with wines, trimmings and polished off with a wonderfully fruity and boozy trifle.
The first step in the art of carving is to buy the right meat. The chicken we will eat today is slow-grown, taking three times as long to grow as normal chickens and this shows in the taste. When the bird is roasted and rested, Hix releases the legs first with a slight tug away from the joint. He deftly slices the joint between the drumstick and the thigh, then takes a bit of breast with the wing and in long strokes, demonstrates the carving of a juicy breast.
We all try to repeat his effortless carve. We are told to avoid furious slicing and to take long strokes without too much pressure, using the length of the knife and to make sure slices are thick so that they will keep juicy.
The second key pointer is to ensure that meat is room temperature before it’s popped into the oven, to ensure even cooking – and once out, it has to be rested properly. Well, the leg of Elwy Valley lamb that follows has been roasted in dampened hay. It’s the trickiest of cuts as the obvious bone down the middle is difficult to negotiate, but, starting at the big end we carve until we reach the bone, then slice at 45 degrees from the other side until the slice comes away. The resulting strips are interesting as there are five different muscles at work, which means that one slice will have different textures at play.
Next up is the rib of pork chops cooked on the bone with a shield of perfect crackling. Hix tells us conspiratorially that the secret to crackling “is to pour boiling water on it before cooking as it helps to crisp it up”. We slice the ribs into individual chops and a simple but impressive array of meat appears quickly on the plate.
Yes, this class may be a meat-lover’s heaven, but the social benefit from learning to carve is undeniable. If you can roast a chicken, then you can learn how to carve and vastly improve the Sunday roast. Long live the long lunch.
Mark Hix Carving class, £150. Includes the feast, wine, cookery book and apron.
Brown’s Hotel, 33 Albemarle Street, W1S. Tel: 020 7493 6020, www.roccofortehotels.com
THE ART OF CARVING
Meat: Buy good quality meat from a trusted butcher. Hix likes Lidgates in Holland Park (110 Holland Park Avenue, W11 4UA), Allens in Mayfair (117 Mount Street, W1K 3LA, 020 7499 5831), and Selfridges Food Hall.
Knife: Buy as expensive as you can afford. Hix favours Swiss, German and French knives,. Expect to spend around £40 for a knife for life.
Chopping Board: Buy a thick one and avoid anything flimsy at all costs. Use damp kitchen roll underneath to avoid a wobbly chopping board.